Saturday, January 29, 2022

Riding the Storm Out

In my last entry,  I wrote about our trip to Colorado.  With that trip completed,  we got up very early on January 10th and said our final goodbyes to 5 of our grand children and our daughter Shannon gave us a ride to the airport in Springfield. The flight went well  and before long we had exchanged 20 degrees for 80 degrees.  The warmth felt wonderful. 

I was very concerned about the damage to the boat that had happened during a storm back in December.  When we arrived, I  assessed the damage and determined it was all superficial. I needed to  secure a portion of the metal strip of the rub rail that had some screws ripped out, but the rest was just scratches to the teak deck rail that we had worked so hard to make it look great last year. I will need to do some more sanding and repair a missing chip at some point in the future, but for now we are good to go. 

You can see the chip out of the teak and the putty fix. Those two screws in the center had been ripped out. 

More scratches and the stipe was worn off.

You can see the missing piling is this picture.

I turned my attention to testing the other systems on the boat, so that we could get moving. We decided to depart the next day.  

Neither Kim or I were feeling 100% from the cold we caught on our trip, but we were good enough to depart. 

There was a fairly strong wind out of the Northeast.  This can mean bad things for Punta Gorda that sits on the Northeast corner of Charlotte harbor.  The wind can literally push a significant amount of water causing very low water. We untied the lines and headed down the canals. We had over an hour trip to get out of the inlet and out into open water. After about a half hour on the canals we passed a large sailboat coming in the opposite direction. He called me on the radio and told me that he had been stuck at the inlet for two hours waiting for the high tide that never came. He was seeing 3.5 feet depth. 

Cruising down the canals of Punta Gorda.

Beautiful homes along the way

We draw 4.5 feet.  That won't work. I called our dock host and asked if we could return for another night and try again tomorrow.  He graciously said yes. In a half hour we were back where we started.

We decided to walk the 1.4 miles to the closest restaurant and had a pizza. We also stopped at a convenient store and bought a half gallon of milk and 4 bananas for $10. That would become an important purchase.  

The next day we made it out the inlet without a problem and never saw less than 6.5 feet at high tide. We had a fun sail to Useppa Island and dropped the hook.  It was a pleasant evening with no wind. We could look across the ICW and see Cabbage Key,  famous for the place to get a "Cheeseburger in Paradise".  

Useppa Island is where the rich and famous go to play.

Sunset over Cabbage Key

I had been watching the weather closely and was getting more concerned about a system that was approaching.  We had hoped to be down in a very protected spot in Marco by the time the storm arrived, but the delay had put us in a bad place. We were right around the corner from Pelican Bay at Cayo Costa SP. That Bay has excellent protection from the direction we would need. Kim loves Cayo Costa,  so she voted to make a return. It was now Friday, January  14th. The storm would arrive on Sunday and last 36 hours. We pulled the anchor and motored the 3.2 miles to Pelican Bay.  

Kim had to go see one of her favorite beaches. The water was rough with the coming storm.

Here is a portion of the walk across the island. There are beautiful live oak trees.

On Saturday, we took a 5 mile hike on the island and then a dinghy ride to see the Manatees.  They must know there was a storm coming, there were a bunch of them in the protected bay. 

We walked around the north end of the island. It was a fun hike and we got to see a number of places we have not seen before. 

One of our favorite places

This is the tram that takes people across the island to the beach and camping area. We would rather walk.

Then we got back to the boat and did storm preparations.  Many boats left the area, but a number of them moved over by us to get the best protection.  

I deployed my 30 foot storm bridle for the first time and tied it off at mid cleat.

It creaked and groaned, but stretched and the anchor held well.

The storm arrived as predicted Sunday morning with some 30 knot wind and driving rain. There was a long squall line stretching hundreds of miles. Just before it hit us we started getting tornado warnings on our phones and the radio. We never saw one, but a number of small ones hit the area. There were a number of homes destroyed about 30 miles from us. The strong winds went on for 2 days and we stayed on the boat. We felt safe and the anchor held well. I have learned much about anchoring and I was able to put that all into practice.  

Strong winds and some light wave action, but we and the other boats did fine. 

The only problem was food. We thought we would provision in Marco Island,  but we didn't make it that far. We had lots of dry and canned food on the boat, but no fresh food. That half of a gallon of milk, loaf of bread and 4 bananas were all the fresh items we had. We made it work and got inventive with what we had.

On Tuesday,  January 18th we were ready to get moving south. We had 2 days travel to get to Marco Island.  The problem was the next day was our 42nd Anniversary.  In my next entry, I will write about how that worked out.

Wednesday, January 26, 2022

3 Weeks away from the Boat for the Holidays did not go as planned

 Kim decided last year that she wanted to get our entire family to Colorado for Christmas. She rented a VRBO house in Pagosa Springs, Colorado after getting the commitment from all of our children that they would make the time to join us. She really wanted to see all of our grandkids learn to ski or snowboard. Our kids grew up skiing and snowboarding and none of our grandkids have been introduced to the sport. 

To say the trip was a total disaster would be too harsh. I really don't want to go into all of the details, but I will list many of the things that happened. Both good and bad.

1. We made it to our dock in Punta Gorda and met the new owners of the house we would be docked behind. They are very nice, but were just moving into house themselves. None of us knew what to expect.

SHIFT at the dock in Punta Gorda

2. We made our flights to Missouri and all went well. Unfortunately we found out that Michael and his family would not be joining us for personal reasons. 

3. I installed new batteries in the truck. I didn't want to have starting problems in the cold of Colorado.

4. On Monday, December 20, the truck would not start on a 20 degree morning. I determined the glow plugs were not heating. I could plug the truck in and wait an hour, and then it would start. That would be the plan for the trip. It was a real pain.

5. On Tuesday, December 21, I got a call that there were hurricane force winds hitting Punta Gorda. It was a freak storm and no one from there had ever seen those kinds of winds in December before. The boat partially broke free from the dock and was lightly damaged when it rubbed on some pilings. Many people including my friend Wayne got people to the boat to help out. Thanks to everyone that helped. I would spend the rest of the trip worrying about the boat.

6. We drove to Pagosa Springs by way of the Great Sand Dunes National Park. We wanted to add that park to our list (That makes 46 National Parks). It was very cool on right on our way.

The family checking out the dunes

7. We had been very concerned that we would have no snow in Colorado. We saw almost 5 feet while we were there.

Snow on Christmas Eve. The first of many.

A winter wonderland

8. We lost power in the house for 6.5 hours on Christmas Eve.

9. We went skiing on December 26th. I had a hard time making it to the ski area until I figured out my 4 wheel drive system was not working properly. I put the front hubs in manually and all was fine. We had 50+ mph winds and white out conditions. I made 2 runs and then they shut down the lifts. The pass was also closed due to a semi wreck. We hung out in the lodge until the pass reopened. The good news is we got full refunds for both the lift tickets and rentals. The kids did lessons and most of them want to do it again albeit in better conditions. 

The view out of the lodge. At times we could not see the cars in the parking lot.

10. Will started the trip sick. He was tested and did not have COVID. Slowly that cold went through many of the people in the family including Kim and I.

11. We had fun playing the in the snow making forts and having a snowball fight. 

Much of the family participated in adding to Isabella's snow fort. 

This is our SIL Brian behind the snow fort that he, Will and I built

12. When we left Pagosa Springs and went over Wolf Creek Pass, we had snow packed roads and near white out conditions. We all made it safely.

13. We drove to Denver to see my parents for my mothers 84th birthday. We enjoyed our time staying at my brother Bob's house. 

Mom on her 84th.

14. We drove to Amarillo and were getting progressively sicker. We called Kim's Mom and she told us to come on. Luckily my parents didn't get sick after our visit and only Kim's Dad did. He is better now, but would appreciate it if we did not bring any gifts in the future. 

15. We spent 4 restful days at Kim's parents house. Kim's dad has a pet wild squirrel called Minnie.


16. We went back to Missouri with Will and Isabella, who had flown in to Dallas from visiting their father. We always love our time with the grand children.

17. We went to the ranch and it snowed. I really wanted to ride my dirtbike, but it was too cold and I was still sick. 

The ranch under a coat of snow. 

18. We made it back to Punta Gorda. The damage on the boat is not too bad. Just some chipped teak on our rail and some screws missing from the rub rail. I have done a quick fix, but will do a complete job in the future. The main issue with the damage was a rotted piling that broke and allowed the boat to move.

We were ready to leave the next day, but that would not be as easy as we thought. I will tell that story in my next entry. 

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Video Updates from our trip from Tarpon Springs to Pelican Bay

 I have put together a few Video updates from our trip from Tarpon Springs to Pelican Bay/Cayo Costa State Park. You could say it was the best of times and the not so good, but it was good once we made it to Pelican Bay. We had an amazing time and I was able to capture some interesting interactions with wildlife on video. Click on the links below to watch the videos:

Tarpon Springs to Gulfport: Tarpon Springs to Gulfport

Gulfport to Boca Grande on the crazy ICW: Gulfport to Boca Grande

Our time in Pelican Bay: Our Time in Pelican Bay

I hope you enjoy the videos. If you are only going to watch one, watch the last one. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2022

This is the Life That we Dreamed of

 When we first started this sailboat adventure, we had visions of what it would be like. The reality has been much different. We have days here and there that are great. And then we have days of boat work and problem solving that can leave us wishing for an easier way of life. 

Starting on the morning of Sunday, December 5, we experienced a week of the life we have been hoping for since the beginning. I will try to describe what that was like. 

We got up Sunday morning to a quiet anchorage. I knew that the forecast was for some wind from the North East in the first part of the day and then dying off to nothing for the next week. We were up early and got the anchor up before sunrise. We had an easy 2.5 mile cruise to Venice. The bridge opening even went perfectly. There was no boat traffic at this early hour. We headed out the inlet and waived to all of the fishermen on the breakwaters. As soon as we hit the gulf we had the sails up and had about 10 knots of perfect wind. We had one of those perfect sails for the first 25 miles. We made that trip in about 5 hours. The wind died off just as we approached the Boca Grande Inlet. Which is perfect, because that inlet can be crazy if you get wind opposing the strong current. The current was even in our favor, so we zipped through at close to 7 knots. 

We then made a turn to starboard and went in to our favorite anchorage (so far), Pelican Bay (Cayo Costa State Park). There were over 30 boats in the bay at anchor on this nice and sunny Sunday afternoon, but we had no problem finding a place to get the hook down. 

This was our view of the anchorage when we arrived. Plenty of room for more boats. One of those boats was familiar.

This is just another sunset shot. I took these each night while I was fishing from the bow. 

When we arrived we noticed that a boat right in front of us was a familiar boat. It was Dave on Maximon. We had last seen Dave in the river at Sunflower Bar. I got the dinghy down and installed the motor. I took a trip over to talk to Dave. He has had a difficult trip, but he was preparing to depart to Key West the following morning. 

We awoke the following morning to heavy fog.

The fog is a good thing. It means we have settled weather and no wind. 

We waited for the fog to burn off enough to go to shore. It was a short 100 yard ride and we were at the park headquarters. We paid our $2 per day per person fee for 5 days. We were able to use the bathrooms and then take a tram ride across the island to the beach. 

We did not have the beach to ourselves, but almost. That is actually a picture of a famous YouTube channel that we met, called MondayNever. Yep, that is Kat and Maddie. 

We must have a picture of Kim on the beach. 

This quickly became our daily routine. We would get up have a lazy breakfast and then head to shore to use the bathroom and then either take the tram or walk the .4 miles to the beach. Then we would walk on the beach for a couple of miles and then get back to the boat for lunch and a lazy afternoon. Then eat an early dinner and then I would do some fishing and then a quiet night for sleeping. We just put that on repeat for 7 days. We loved it. 

We also got out for some dinghy adventures. We found a little lake surrounded by mangroves. We saw some manatees and an alligator. 

Can you see the alligator in this picture?

I don't know what the deal is with this place, but it looks like something the park uses. 

We had one awesome sunset after another. 

We did find some amazing shells on the beach including these "arrowhead sand dollars".

On the last night we were at Pelican Bay this Great Egret decided he wanted to hang out with us. He stayed right there on the dinghy for about an hour. I could get very close and he didn't seem to be worried. I guess he just wanted to say good bye. 

Some of you might want to know if I caught any fish. Well, I was fishing with plastic minnows and about every 5th cast, they came back cut in half. The only fish I caught was this little ballyhoo, but I am sure there were larger trout out there that out foxed me. 

This is a pretty good place for me.

We really enjoyed our time at Pelican Bay, but we had a deadline that caused us to move on. We needed to get some things done on the domestic side (laundry) and get the boat ready to leave for a little over three weeks. We decided to get a slip at Burnt Store Marina for 4 nights to get ready. It was a short 13 mile trip to Burnt Store. It is a nice marina, but we were right next to the restaurant that had a live band each night. The good news is that they were playing music I like and we enjoyed sitting out in cockpit each evening to listen to the band. 

It was then on the 16th of December that we sailed up Charlotte Harbor to the maze of canals that is much of Punta Gorda, Florida. We had arranged to leave our boat behind a private house while we were gone. In my next entry, I will pick this story up from there. To say it did not turn out as we hoped, would be an understatement. 


Monday, January 10, 2022

Tarpon Springs to Venice

After an enjoyable stay in Tarpon Springs,  we left the City Marina on December 2nd. We first made a stop at Captain Jacks marina for fuel and a pump out. There were strong tidal currents that made docking a challenge,  but with the help of a dock hand, we got it done. Their pump out system was not working correctly,  so we settled for just $48 in fuel.  Not bad for the 300 mile trip from Orange Beach, Alabama. 

We now had 15 days to get to Punta Gorda to catch our flight. We decided to make a series of short day trips.  The only problem was that the weather was not cooperating.  We  had many days of almost no wind. On that Thursday,  there was some decent wind out of the east. 

We motored the 5 miles out the river and into the open water between the barrier islands and the coast. We put up the sails and exited through a gap in the islands into the open gulf. We decided to stop at an anchorage we have used before in the Clearwater area. We could not take a direct path because of wind angle,  but only tacked once to go in the Clearwater inlet. We sailed for about 6 hours and made 25 miles. It was a fun sail and it felt good to do a short, easy trip. 

It felt so good to be under sail again. You can see Clearwater, Florida in the distance.

This is one of the many crab pots that are all over the place this time of year. It really takes the relaxation out of sailing along the coast. Constant attention is required.

Kim looking out over the water as we approach the Clearwater inlet.

We anchored at the Bellevue island anchorage in 7 feet of water right in front of a golf course.  Wind died off as the sun went down and we enjoyed a quiet night at anchor. 

This is a shot of the golf course next to our anchorage.

Another view of the high rises in Clearwater from the inside.

We had a nice sunset over the barrier islands.

The following day we awoke to zero wind. We decided to motor down the ICW 17 miles to Gulfport, Florida. It was an easy trip with minimal traffic. We did have to open 6 bridges. That would be good practice for the following day.

We saw some people enjoying some ultra light flying along the ICW

This guy actually flew under the bridge we had just come under.

We got to Gulfport and dropped the hook.  There was still no wind,  but the wakes from passing boats made for an uncomfortable evening.  We had been to Gulfport before,  so we decided to keep moving south the following day, which was Saturday, December 4th. 

Here we are in the Gulfport, Florida anchorage. Lots of boats.

We did have a nice sunset in Gulfport.

We awoke to thick fog. We waited for over an hour after sunrise to depart.  We were hoping to make it to Blackburn Bay,  which is just north of Venice. We decided to stay inside because going outside would have added about 10 miles. We were also hoping to sail across both Tampa Bay and Sarasota Bay.  That turned out to be a big mistake. 

We motored under the bridges and through the canals to Tampa Bay. We had very light wind right behind us,  so we unfurled the genoa and motor sailed across the bay. That was when one of those amazing things happened.  We got a call on the radio from what turned out to be a good friend that just happened to be crossing the bay in the opposite direction on their way to St. Pete with their boating club. It was awesome to talk to them. Wayne and Michele will become part of this story in coming entries. 

The Sky Bridge over Tampa Bay. It felt like coming back where we started.

A large ship heading out the shipping channel in Tampa Bay

After leaving Tampa Bay, we started to encounter very heavy boat traffic.  Many were courteous and many were not.  We had to open a total of 6 bridges the rest of the day. Many of the bridges are on set schedules which requires us to find a place to wait. The water is very shallow outside the channel,  so that can be a challenge.  Couple that with big wakes from large unconcerned power boats, made this a very stressful day. We didn't take any pictures of the craziness, but Kim did shoot some video. I will try to edit it and post it in the near future. 

We just made it to our anchorage before dark. I was so happy to get settled for the night.  We were right along the ICW,  but the traffic continued after the sun went down.  It seems there was a Christmas boat parade in Venice. We really didn't mind and listened to the music and enjoyed the decorations on the boats. By 10 pm all was quiet and we enjoyed a good nights sleep. 

The end to a long day in Blackburn Bay.

After this difficult day we had some of the best days we have had since we have lived on the boat.  In my next entry I will write about the best of times.